Lower ABV products are having an impact, claims new research

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

The industry is making greater strides towards its commitments under the Responsibility Deal than MPs give it credit for, and must do more to demonstrate the impact of its actions, according to one leading commentator.

Earlier this month the Parliamentary Health Committee questioned the value of commitments by the industry, among others, to reduce the strength of brands.

“We do not believe reducing alcohol in some lagers from 5% to 4.8%, for example, will have a significant impact,” said the committee’s report.

“If the industry does not bring forward more substantial proposals it risks being seen as paying lip service to the need to reduce the health harms caused by alcohol.”

In contrast, CGA chief operating officer Phil Tate pointed to its research that found that “such a move will make a material contribution to the industry’s efforts to reduce unit consumption”.

“If we look at Stella Artois volumes in 2011 and compare the units that would have been consumed if the brand had remained at 5% compared with 4.8%, we can see that 19 million fewer units would have been consumed [as a result of the lower ABV].

“So from one brand alone, purely from the on-trade and in one year of a five-year commitment, 2% of the required total unit reduction would have been met.

“If you factor in off-trade volumes (Stella Artois is the biggest beer brand in the off- trade in value terms) and that this is a multiple-year initiative, these small moves in ABV add up to a big impact on the unit-reduction initiative.

“The activities of multiple- brand owners (AB InBev, Carlsberg UK, Heineken UK, Molson Coors to name a few) to lower the ABV of key products should not be dismissed. We as an industry need to evidence the impact of these moves within a clear message that can be heard across Whitehall.

“There is a need for the industry and brand owners to take the Responsibility Deal very seriously and  to demonstrate that those commitments have been met and are making vital contributions to the wider initiative.”

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